NEW YORK – Lou Dobbs sits in a Fox Business Network conference room where the walls are filled with aphorisms from the likes of Vince Lombardi and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
“I feel like I’m home,” a sleek Dobbs says.
Home may seem a little more cramped than what he’s used to. Dobbs debuts his new hour-long show Monday on a network with half the reach of chief competitor CNBC and his old stomping grounds at CNN, but the veteran business journalist said he likes the atmosphere.
“There’s this spirit of the underdog,” says Dobbs, who has dropped 25 pounds over the past four months. “There’s this spirit of competition. I just feel so fortunate to be part of the team that’s going to build us up.”
Dobbs’ show is titled “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” the same as the one he left in 2009 after an awkward last few years at CNN. Once the most visible television business journalist with his “Moneyline” show in the 1990s, Dobbs made CNN management uneasy as he grew more opinionated and drew angry protests from Latinos for his emphasis on curbing illegal immigration.
His new show is likely to feel familiar to his fans, as Dobbs intends to dive into the complex public policy and economic issues that drive society. Owing to his new home, he said the focus will likely be heavier on business than it had been in his final days at CNN.
“We’ll focus on the American people, their standard of living … the American nation,” he says. “Those are always my starting points.”
FBN is using the tag “back to business” for Dobbs’ new show, said Kevin Magee, the network’s executive vice president. Viewers will get an understanding of what the markets did each day and what is expected to happen in the coming days, he said.
“Lou is a brand-name business guy,” Magee said. “I think he’s going to help the team. … He’s one of the four or five people you can name who does business news and he’s got a great track record.”
Although Dobbs said the show will be a forum for different views, he says, “My audience has always expected me to tell them where I’m coming from, and I don’t see any reason to disappoint them.”
That’s no problem with Magee. “If you’ve been doing news as long as he has and don’t have an opinion, something’s wrong with you,” he said.
The Fox Business Network, which started in 2007, is seen in just over 50 million homes, about half the reach of CNN and chief business competitor CNBC. FBN is also on digital tiers, or higher up on channel lineups and harder to find. The network does not release viewership numbers for its shows.
That may be why some of the critics who campaigned to get Dobbs removed from CNN haven’t been particularly exercised about his return.
“Who watches Fox Business?” said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of the Latino advocacy group Presente.org and a leader of an anti-Dobbs campaign while he was at CNN. “I don’t know anybody who watches Fox Business.”
Dobbs said the reach is not an issue with him (nor are the critics he calls his “fleas”).
“My concern is building an audience,” says Dobbs, 65. “That’s going to take some time. I have no idea how long.”
He offers no reflections on the unpleasant end at CNN, the network where he spent more than a quarter-century after joining when it started in 1980.
“I’m not a person that spends much time looking into the rearview mirror,” he says. “I’m more of a windshield guy. I can tell you without any equivocation or ambiguity, I have not watched one moment of that network, not one moment.”
Is he bitter?
“Do I seem bitter?” he replied.
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